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The Issue of bombing Auschwitz

The revelations in the reports by escapees were accompanied by actions intended to deter the Nazis from further crimes. These intensified in connection with reports that Jews from German-occupied Hungary were being deported to Auschwitz and murdered in the gas chambers. This news roused public opinion to protest in order to stop the extermination and save those who remained alive. President Roosevelt, Pope Pius XII, the King of Sweden, and the governments of Turkey, Switzerland, and Spain, and the International Red Cross brought pressure on Hungarian regent Miklos Horthy to halt the deportation. The pressure proved effective; transports from Hungary stopped arriving in Auschwitz at the beginning of July, 1944.

These efforts were accompanied by appeals to bomb the Auschwitz gas chambers and crematoria, and the rail lines that led to them. Various people and organizations, mostly Jewish, directed these appeals primarily to the US government. They turned out to be ineffective. The War Department held the view that military resources should not be used for non-military purposes, and that the proposed air raids were “unfeasible” because they would have required the diversion of air power needed for success on other fronts. Furthermore, the Department felt that the most effective way of helping the victims of persecution was the most rapid possible victory over the Third Reich, and that all resources should be directed towards this aim. The British Air Ministry took a similar stand.